New Singles Cover all the bases

It’s been awhile since I posted anything, let alone a post of new singles.  Well, here’s a list of some of the newest stuff Nashville has to offer. 

 Heartland – “Once A Woman Gets A Hold Of Your Heart”

Signed to Lofton Creek Records last year, Heartland released a good album with a great, possibly too hard to overcome, single in “I Loved Her First.” Sadly, Lofton Creek Records couldn’t do much with the band after that no-brainer smash hit.  So, Heartland left the label.  They signed with another small label, Country Thunder, but this label gave the band a bigger budget to release “Once…” Written by John Rich and former Lonestar singer Richie McDonald (this must be an old catalog song given Rich’s/Lonestar’s history), and produced by Rich, this song is miles different from the southern fried rock of the debut album.  Still, while more ‘radio friendly’ with a bit of personality, the lead singer isn’t a charismatic singer. 

Grade: C-

Trisha Yearwood – “Heaven, Heartache & The Power Of Love 

 One of my all-time favorite singers, Trisha consistently has delivered solid albums, even when the label chose to push the wrong singles.  Now signed to strong indie label Big Machine Records, Trisha has delelivered a sultry, gospel-tinged, tempo filled number that should have radio finally able to play something that is meaty while radio freindly.  Welcome back Trisha!

Grade: A+

Hal KetchumIn Front Of The Alamo

Hal is another favorite artist and “Alamo” is one of his best singles in years.  From the album “One More Midnight” (Released in Europe only so far), the song is one that should, if there was any justice have Hal back on radio airwaves across the USA.   The fact that Hal has written a hell of a story only helps to enhance the imagery provided by the lyrics and harmony vocals from miss LeAnn Rimes. 

Grade: B+

Billy Currington – Tangled Up”

Since I’ve been listening to a bunch of classic rock of late, I certainly dig the melodies of the song.  Currington’s vocals are spot-on as usual while the production is what we’ve come to expect out of mainstream Nashville.  What that means is the song is a thoroughly professional radio ready hit that sets up Billy’s third album nicely.  Despite all of the positives, I still get the feeling that Billy could’ve done a bit more with the song. But hey, every artist needs a ‘get them ready’ kind of song for their show.

Grade: B-

Rascal Flatts – Take Me There”

Well, here we are, another mid-tempo, ballad/anthem love song from Rascal Flatts.  I’ve never understood why people hate the band as much as they do.  I’ve always liked the harmonies and vocals, even if the production was more ‘pop’ than country.  It’s a hit, no doubt about it and a good intro into the band’s upcoming record. 

Grade: B-

Phil Vassar – “This Is my Life”

Phil is often as derided as Rascal Flatts with his pop-leaning songs but the man has a way with hook-filled tracks with memorable lines.  He truly is modern country’s version of Billy Joel.  His piano playing also continues to get better with every release.   Will this one be a hit, I don’t know (it currently looks like it’s gonna be a struggle for Phil’s new label Universal South).  Still I like it and it’ll be in the rotation of my ipod. 

Grade: B

Carolina Rain – “Dealin'”

The first real ballad on this list, this trio is often compared to Rascal Flatts for their harmonies alone however their musical instrumentation is a lot more traditional and acoustic.  It’s also a really good song.  Like Vassar, Carolina Rain may have a bit of trouble getting radio to play the song but I really like it.

Grade: B+

 Gary Allan – “Watching Airplanes

Gary is one of the absolute best artists making country records these days (well, mainstream anyway) and to hear anything new from him is always a welcomed treat.  This one isn’t nearly as emotionally wrought as anything from the ultra-personal “Tough All Over” record but “Airplanes” still has the sound of a major hit from a major artist. 

Grade: B-

 Jo Dee Messina – “Biker Chick”

I’ve Liked Jo Dee ever since she arrived on the scene in 1995 and this new single is one of her strongest in years.  She always had the sassiness that lent itself to uptempo tracks and when you add the hook and humor filled lyrics of “Chick” you could have the formula for a big hit. 

Grade: C

 Jennifer Hanson – Joyride

Jennifer Hanson had a big hit with “Beautiful Goodbye” in the earlier part of the decade and recently has scored as a songwriter of a few hits like The Wreckers “Leave The Pieces” and Bucky CovingtonA Different World.”  With that success, Nashville labels took notice of her again and She signed on with Universal South to release this single.  “Joyride” is another guitar-driven, Sheryl Crow-like track with all of the vocal gusto found on Jennifer’s self-titled record from 2002.  Will it be a hit, I don’t know.

Grade : C-

Crossin’ Dixon – Guitar Slinger”

While there’s a ton of southern-fried rock bands poppin’ up (Flynville Train, Halfway To Hazard, Cole Deggs and the Lonesome, Heartland, etc), I think this new Broken Bow Records act might have the best shot of the lot for a sustained career.  The melody is catchy and the verses are fun to listen to (even if the chorus is a bit underwhelming).  So, here’s hoping that Crossin Dixon gets a hit with the track (even if it has touches of latter-day Bon Jovi too).

Grade: B-

Blake Shelton – The More I Drink” 

I really like Blake Shelton’s voice.  He’s a singer’s singer, never sounds like he’s shouting when he belts out a song and he has enough versatility to release one of the most ‘traditional’ tracks currently airing on radio.  While I would’ve released the much better, “Back There Again” before this one, I am happy Blake’s making strides at consistent radio airplay.  I’ll wait.  “Back There Again” is a sure-fire Number 1 hit whenever it gets released. 

Grade: B-

Chris Cagle – “What Kinda Gone”

Chris hasn’t sounded this good in ages, possibly ever.  I still am shocked that Capital gave up on the last record like they did (especially with a cool song like the AC/DC-inspired “Hey Y’all” a perfect example of the kind of song Chris should be doing, that’d be the uptempo, rock-it-out-of-the-park kind of song he first got notice with.  He’s such a good uptempo singer (and better in concert) that he doesn’t need to do too many balads.  It looks like Capital agrees.  This one sounds like a big hit.

 Grade: B+

Brooks and Dunn – Proud of the House We Built”

B&D continue to show me that I was wrong for thinking they were terrible a decade ago (I hated “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” the way others hate Billy Ray Cyrus’ Achy Breaky Heart”).  But I eventually came around when the duo’s comeback track “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You” blasted through my speakers the first time.  Ronnie Dunn is a man with golden pipes and that just helps a song like “Proud” overcome MOR lyrical imagery. 

Grade: C+

Emerson Drive – “You Still Owe Me”

While not an immediate slam-dunk hit that “Moments” was (and I was championing that ballad since last summer), “Owe Me” is still the kind of pleasant-on-the-ears, tempo-filled track that is perfect for summer radio.  It’s a hit and that’s a good thing for one of the better bands (they play their instruments in the studio a la Diamond Rio) playing mainstream country music. 

Grade: B+


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